by Stan Stankowski
It always seems like actually starting work as an attorney is forever away. You clerk, you get an offer. You accept it or reject it. You may decide to go clerk or find a different job. In any event, it is very likely that your first job in a law firm will have been obtained long before you actually start work. So, you accept an offer and finish law school or your clerkship and take the bar at some point. However, you always have this job that you are eventually going to start. They offered it to you two years ago. You have shot an email back and forth at least twice since then, you may have even attended a firm function at some point. So you are definitely set up and ready to go as soon as that specific day, set up as much as two years ago, finally rolls around. Aren't you? Then again, this is all a little strange, I mean, who the hell offers you a job years in advance? And really, you haven't talked to an attorney there in months. What if they forgot about it? Are you really just supposed to walk through a door one day and they will be there, expecting your arrival, waiting to pay you?
Oddly enough, that appears to be the case.
I know that I am not the only one who has found this arrangement a little odd when they actually started thinking about it. Nonetheless, there they were, expecting my arrival. Therefore, if you are in a similar situation, you probably still do have a job. Not only that, but they have all sorts of stuff for you. A brief list of the good and the bad:
Good crap that one receives when starting work: An office, secretary (floater until they can hire a new one), paralegal (What? What do they do? Can I ask it to make copies? ), a variety of free items (emblazoned with firm logo), probably various computers and a blackberry.
Bad Crap: Codes of all sorts for doors, clients, phones. Also in this category would be the really strange thing that the firm emblazoned their logo on (a tape measure? Do we represent Lowes?).
Worst thing one receives: Billable hours requirement.
That's right. A billable hours requirement. I am sure that some of you are thinking either (1) "but you knew about that before"; or (2) "Ha! If that's it, then no problem." Quite frankly, both groups are probably correct. I did know about it well in advance, and there are probably people out there who could care less about it, or think that they won't. However the thing that escaped me, and probably most people is that this is far different from any other sort of working scenario. For the first time, I can finish a huge project, clear my desk and feel great. For about thirty seconds.
That's about how long it took me to realize that even when you finish a particular task, there is no longer any satisfaction at all. Because you aren't finished. Instead, you have get up and go look for more.
Why? Well, good question. The truth of it is, you aren't even looking for something that needs to be done, you are just looking for anything at all. New case, old case, pleading, motion, brief, memo. Due in three years? All right, I will have it to you by Thursday. Why? (again?) because you are no longer measured on what is accomplished, you are measured on the amount of hours that you spend working; hours which can be billed to clients. In turn, these bills determine if you are a profitable asset. If so, you get to keep the job you didn't start for years for at least as long as you waited to start it.. If not, well, I can only assume a downward spiral begins, eventually ending in a polite suggestion that you find something else in three months time. Don't get me wrong, its not all bad. I mean, large law firms (or even firms like mine) do offer high profile clients. Thank God. I mean, if I were writing this summary judgment motion for some two bit local company instead of one in the Fortune 100, I would be bored out of my mind.
About the Author: Stan Stankowski is the pseudonym of a first-year associate working in a litigation firm somewhere in the South. For more details, read his introductory post, as well as Evan Schaeffer's introduction.